Susan Hartman Presents City of Refugees with Jennifer Percy

06/23/2022 - 6:00pm


THURSDAY, JUNE 23 AT 6 PM

“A gripping, fast-moving immersion into the lives of three bright new lights in a once fading town, City of Refugees is a meticulous and timely work of journalism.” —Dina Nayeri, author of The Ungrateful Refugee

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Guests over the age of five must wear masks and show proof of vaccination (either a vaccine card or an Excelsior Pass).


For readers of Caste, this intimate portrait of newcomers revitalizing a fading industrial town illuminates the larger canvas of refugee life in 21st century America.

Many Americans imagine refugees as threatening outsiders who will steal jobs or be a drain on the economy. But across the country, refugees are rebuilding and maintaining the American Dream. In City of Refugees, journalist Susan Hartman shows how an influx of refugees helped revive Utica, New York, an old upstate manufacturing town that was nearly destroyed by depopulation and arson. Hartman follows 3 of these newcomers over the course of 8 years as they and their families adjust to new lives in America. There's Sadia, a bright, spirited Somali Bantu teenager who rebels against her formidable mother, Ali, an Iraqi translator who creates a home with a divorced American woman but is still traumatized by war, and Mersiha, a hard-working and ebullient Bosnian who dreams of opening a café. They are part of an extraordinary migration of refugees from Vietnam, Bosnia, Burma, Somalia, Iraq, and elsewhere, who have transformed Utica over the past four decades--opening small businesses, fixing up abandoned houses, and adding a spark of vitality to forlorn city streets. Other Rust Belt cities have also welcomed refugees, hoping to jump-start their economies and attract a younger population. City of Refugees is a complex and poignant story of a small city but also of America--a country whose promise of safe harbor and opportunity is knotty and incomplete, but undeniably alive.

Susan Hartman has written about immigrant communities for over 20 years. Her cover stories and profiles have appeared in the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, and Newsday. The author of two books of poetry, she was educated at Kirkland College and received an MFA from Columbia University's School of the Arts, where she now teaches. She lives outside New York City with her husband; they have 2 grown children.

Jennifer Percy is a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine and recipient of the National Magazine Award for Feature Writing. She is the author of the nonfiction book DEMON CAMP (Scribner) which was a New York Times Notable Book and a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick  Percy is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop where she received a Truman Capote Fellowship, as well as a graduate of the Nonfiction Writing Program at Iowa where she was an Iowa Arts Fellow.  Percy has received numerous awards including a Pushcart Prize, the National Endowment for the Arts grant, fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and the MacDowell Colony. Her essays have  appeared in the New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Sunday Book Review, Harper's, BookForum, The New Republic, Esquire, and elsewhere. She teaches writing at Columbia University in NYC. 

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